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Trump ties China trade deal to 'humane' Hong Kong resolution after troop buildup worry

18 Comments
By David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay

President Donald Trump on Wednesday tied a U.S. trade deal with China to humane resolution of the weeks of protests wracking Hong Kong, hours after the State Department said it was "deeply concerned" about reports of movement of Chinese paramilitary forces along the Hong Kong border.

The State Department warned that continued erosion of the territory's autonomy put at risk the preferential status it enjoys under U.S. law.

Trump, in his remarks on Twitter, appeared to suggest a personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to help resolve the crisis.

"Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!" Trump said on Twitter. "I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?"

Trump, who has been seeking a major deal to correct trade imbalances with China ahead of his 2020 reelection bid, has faced mounting criticism from Congress and elsewhere for not taking a stronger public line on Hong Kong and for his characterization of the protests earlier this month as "riots" that were a matter for China to deal with.

In his tweets on Wednesday, Trump also said that his delay in 10% tariffs on more than $150 billion in Chinese imports to Dec. 15 from Sept. 1 "will be reciprocated" by China and the"much good will come from the short deferral to December."

His comment appeared to contradict senior officials in his administration, who said earlier that no concessions were made by Beijing in response to the delay announced on Tuesday.

Trump's tougher stance on Hong Kong followed an internal debate within the White House and State Department over whether the United States was looking too compliant as the Chinese appeared to be preparing for a crackdown.

A source familiar with the deliberations said while an even-handed approach was smart, it was not the right signal to send in this case.

Earlier, a State Department spokeswoman said the United States was "deeply concerned" about reports of paramilitary movements along the Hong Kong border and reiterated a U.S. call for all sides to refrain from violence.

She said it was important for the Hong Kong government to respect "freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly" and for Beijing to adhere to its commitments to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

She said the protests reflected "broad and legitimate concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy."

" The continued erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy puts at risk its long-established special status in international affairs," she said.

A 1992 U.S. law affords Hong Kong preferential treatment in matters of trade and economics compared with China. Areas of special treatment include visas, law enforcement and investment.

A U.S. official said Beijing had stationed large numbers of paramilitary People's Armed Police (PAP) "near and further out from Hong Kong," but said there had been no sign they were moving toward the border.

The number of personnel was "in the thousands," said the official, who did not want to be identified, and the aim appeared to be to intimidate the protesters.

He said protests had yet to reach a level that would compel Beijing to send them in. "I don't think they've reached any tipping points," the official said.

"They have amped up training and made it all pretty visible," he said, but added: "There are no recent indicators that they are preparing to deploy."

China's state-run Global Times media outlet reported on Monday that People's Armed Police had been assembling in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, "in advance of apparent large-scale exercises."

It cited video it had obtained showing numerous armored personnel carriers (APCs), trucks and other vehicles on expressways heading in the direction of Shenzhen over the weekend. It noted that the role of the PAP was "dealing with rebellions, riots, serious violent and illegal incidents, terrorist attacks and other social security incidents."

Satellite images made available to Reuters on Wednesday from Maxar Technologies showed dozens of vehicles, including what appeared to be APCs, at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre across the harbor from Hong Kong.

On Tuesday Trump cited American intelligence as saying that China was moving troops to its border with the former British colony, and urged calm as clashes continued between protesters and authorities.

LAWMAKERS URGE TOUGHER LINE

The State Department's expression of concern came after senior U.S. lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, called on Trump to take a tougher line with China as worries grew over a possible Chinese intervention.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warned China on Monday that any violent crackdown on protests in Hong Kong would be "completely unacceptable."

On Tuesday, the Republican chair of the Senate's East Asia subcommittee, Cory Gardner, said the Trump administration "must make clear to Beijing that any crackdown in Hong Kong will have profound consequences for China, including imposition of U.S. sanctions."

Trump said last month that Xi had acted "very responsibly" in dealing with the protests. The Financial Times newspaper reported earlier in July that the U.S. leader had agreed with Xi at the June Group of 20 summit to tone down criticism of China's handling of the crisis.

On Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to back this approach in a CNBC interview.

"The president has made clear that he is watching very carefully what’s happening," Ross said. "The question of it is what role is there for the U.S. in that manner? This is an internal matter."

On Wednesday, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, and the panel's leading Republican, Michael McCaul, said they were concerned that 30 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, China might again consider brutally putting down peaceful protests.

"We urge China to avoid making such a mistake, which would be met with universal condemnation and swift consequences," they said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, the State Department issued a travel advisory urging "increased caution in Hong Kong due to civil unrest."

Flights resumed on Wednesday at the Hong Kong airport, one of the world's busiest, which shut down for two days after demonstrators occupied it.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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Tying Hong Kong with a trade deal is probably worse than tying Huawei with it. At this point, with the trade war going on and sanctions, what would additional sanctions do? It didn't even do much since 1989.

Trump just wants to entice Xi to try and help the markets bounce back, because it's not making him look good right now, with a possible looming recession.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Trump just wants to entice Xi to try and help the markets bounce back, because it's not making him look good right now, with a possible looming recession.

Or it could be that Trump is simply supporting human rights.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Or it could be that Trump is simply supporting human rights.

Lmao, good one. Even his good friend Xi is laughing.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Or it could be that Trump is simply supporting human rights.

Lmao, good one. Even his good friend Xi is laughing.

Doubt Xi laughing, he can't be pleased about this development.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Doubt Xi laughing, he can't be pleased about this development.

Yes, yes, I'm sure Winnie the Pooh is just as sad as Eeyore right now.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Trump supports the people in Hong Kong that liberals have been supporting.

Now you dont support them, just so you can criticize Trump for trying to help them.

Wow.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Yes, yes, I'm sure Winnie the Pooh is just as sad as Eeyore right now.

Har!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Remember way back when diplomatic negotiations happened in private, were mostly agreed, then made public? I remember not liking that, since the deals seems to always screw over the USA.

Trump puts everything out there, more than he should, but there's little doubt the world knows what his latest whim might be.

A recession is very close if we look at US Bonds, but 2020 is an election year, so there will be billions of extra money thrown into the US economy. Since 1928, only 4 election years have been down for the US SP500. Just an observation, not a prediction.

I wasn't worried about Beijing being violent against protestors. They've changed and want the world to know it. I don't think Beijing will give in with the current pressure, until mainland Chinese hear more about Hong Kong from external sources and Xi has internal economic issues which impact them too.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

His comment appeared to contradict senior officials in his administration, who said earlier that no concessions were made by Beijing in response to the delay announced on Tuesday.

And this is new news? That's what this Dimwit does - make some inane, stupid announcement while his staff sit there with the "deer in the headlights" look...

I'm sure there are some experts left in the administration that understand this - it's clear Donnie doesn't. The trade negotiations with the US are an economic matter - the demonstrations in HK a security issue. China can be flexible and compromise on economic matters - they never will on security ones.

China's main threat is not the US, or Japan, or even Russia - it is its own people. As with any communist or non-democratic form of government, the people in power will do anything to remain in power - that was clear during Tienanmen Square, the arrest of members of the Falun Gong, and efforts to subjugate the Uighurs.

Trump was stupid to link these two issues, because he just made both much more difficult to solve.

But what can you expect when his former Sec of State, National Security Adviser and Sec of Defense all say he's a "moron", an "idiot", and "has the understanding of a fifth grader"...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I wouldn't put it past China to bring in troops to HK. They did it in '89 and they'll do it in '19. They're views on human and civil rights are quite different from the West's.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Serrano: "Or it could be that Trump is simply supporting human rights."

This president? Maybe he should first start supporting rights in the US and then in the Palestinian territories where he sells weapons to Israel to use against "PROTESTERS" seeking freedom.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Speed: "They're views on human and civil rights are quite different from the West's.:

More aligned with Israel.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Interesting. But good on Trump and the US for supporting HK. I approve.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

How many "protesters" has the Chinese military killed in the last 10 day and how many Palestinian protesters have the Israeli military killed over the past 10 day? But the xenophobia continues, the double standard continues.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

How many "protesters" has the Chinese military killed in the last 10 day and how many Palestinian protesters have the Israeli military killed over the past 10 day? But the xenophobia continues, the double standard continues.

How would one cancel out the other? Both fights are for freedom and both are respectable. Both are fighting oppressive regimes.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Trumped blinked.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Why would he tie trade negotiations to Hong Kong? A trade deal just got further away.

Speak out against what's happening in Hong Kong. Negotiate a trade deal. But don't mix the two together.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yep, anything that Trump support.......even helping your beloved HK protesters, you're now against his support.

When China sends in troops and imposes martial law, I'm sure the Trump-bashers will be blaming Trump for provoking China into doing so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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